Moving and shaking: Marriage equality rally, L.A. Press Club Awards, the Black Eyed Peas and more

Los Angeles clergy, city officials, same-sex couples and other supporters of gay marriage rejoiced in the Supreme Court’s decision to make same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states during a June 26 rally in West Hollywood Park.

“Marriage, that peculiar and particular joining of human hearts and souls, is high on the list of what serves some human needs,” Beth Chayim Chadashim (BCC) Rabbi Lisa Edwards said, addressing the large crowd assembled on the same day of the court’s ruling. “It is why it has become a cause worldwide, and it is why we are here tonight in such a variety of human experience — to celebrate this hard-won victory of the human heart.”

The crowd numbered approximately 1,000, this reporter estimated, and came waving American flags, gay pride flags, and carrying signs that read, “Love Wins.” The evening’s attendees were in good company: Similar events took place all over the country, according to uniteformarriage.org.

Among those who participated in the program were BCC Rabbi Heather Miller; L.A. City Councilmember Paul Koretz, a former mayor of West Hollywood; and City Controller Ron Galperin, who is married to Rabbi Zachary Shapiro of Temple Akiba in Culver City.

BCC member Bracha Yael was in attendance with her partner of 35 years, Davi Chang, a fellow member of the congregation founded in 1972 as the world’s first lesbian and gay synagogue.

“I just welled up and cried,” Yael said, describing her reaction to the court’s decision. 

Edwards, spotlighting the work of faith leaders who helped make the day’s ruling possible, mentioned Rabbi Denise Eger of Congregation Kol Ami, the other LGBT synagogue in L.A. Eger was in Israel and unable to attend.

“As religious leaders, we celebrate today how far we have come,” Edwards said, “but we don’t rest yet.”

The rally’s sponsors included BCC, the Anti-Defamation League and the Office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

The Daniel Pearl Award for Courage and Integrity in Journalism recognized the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo during the June 28 Los Angeles Press Club gala dinner at the downtown Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles. 

The target of a January terrorist attack in Paris by Islamic extremists that took the lives of 12 people, Charlie Hebdo skewers religion, politicians and current events. The murder of the magazine’s staff prompted expressions of solidarity around the world.

From left: Judea Pearl, co-founder of the Daniel Pearl Foundation, and Charlie Hebdo journalist Antonio Fischetti attended the June 28 Los Angeles Press Club gala. Photo by Kerstin Alm

 “We grieve and stand united with the French people, and with the families of all victims of the Paris massacre,” said Judea and Ruth Pearl, presenters of the award and parents of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, in a statement. “We are humbled by their sacrifice, which has reawakened the world to a deadly peril that must be confronted and eliminated.”

Hebdo joins the company of previous winners: NBC News’ Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel, the late Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya and ABC News’ Bob Woodruff.

The Journal won several awards in the “Print Over 50,000 Circulation” category. First-place winners were Danielle Berrin for her work as a columnist and Marty Kaplan in the commentary category. 

Simone Wilson won second place in the investigative/series category and third place in the individual online blog. Jared Sichel was honored for a news feature over 1,000 words (third place) and Rob Eshman for his work as a columnist (third place). 

Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller is retiring from his position as executive director at the Yitzhak Rabin Hillel Center for Jewish Life at UCLA after 40 years with the organization. As of July 1, he will transition into an emeritus role, which he will maintain “in the year ahead,” according to a press release. A May 27 event at the home of Jeanne and Anthony Pritzker spotlighted, among other things, Seidler-Feller’s upcoming transition to a new role.

Rabbi Aaron Lerner, current Hillel at UCLA Simha and Sara Lainer Senior Jewish Educator, will become the organization’s new leader.

Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller and Rabbi Aaron Lerner. Photos courtesy of Hillel at UCLA

Two events — a day of learning and a gala ceremony — will celebrate Seidler-Feller on Jan. 31, 2016. The former will feature keynote addresses from visiting scholars.

Seidler-Feller’s accomplishments during his tenure include overseeing the construction of the Yitzhak Rabin Hillel Center for Jewish Life, engaging Persian students by founding the UCLA Persian Community at Hillel and promoting Jewish-themed student arts on campus by creating the Streisand Center for Jewish Cultural Arts, the precursor to the Dortort Center for Creativity in the Arts at UCLA Hillel. He has been a staunch advocate of Israel, as well, helping to push back against the growing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement on campus.

Meanwhile, Lerner, who recently completed his third year at UCLA’s Hillel, is also involved with Israel advocacy and has worked with student leaders who, in turn, do outreach to other Jewish students on campus. A Wexner Graduate Fellow, he was ordained at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and worked in commercial real estate finance after graduating from the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business. He and his wife, Rachel Lerner, have three daughters.

With his interest in telling stories, Jeffrey Tambor had the childhood ambition of becoming a rabbi. But when his father told him he’d need to learn Hebrew, he opted to become another kind of storyteller — an actor. 

Beth Chayim Chadashim honoree and actor Jeffrey Tambor (“Transparent”) accepts an award from Amy Landecker (left)  and Judith Light, his “Transparent” co-stars. Photo by Ryan Torok

Tambor revealed this and more when he was feted June 28 at the Beth Chayim Chadashim 2015 Awards Brunch at the Skirball Cultural Center, where he was honored with the Rabbi Erwin and Agnes Herman Humanitarian Award for his work on the hit Amazon TV series “Transparent.”

“I think I should get the ‘Luckiest Guy in the Room Award’ or, more specifically, the ‘Luckiest Jew in the Room [Award],’ ” Tambor said upon accepting his award, which was presented by “Transparent” co-stars Amy Landecker and Judith Light. The award was a shofar that Tambor, caught up in the excitement of the moment, almost forgot to take with him as he left the stage at the conclusion of his remarks. 

Coming on the heels of the June 26 landmark Supreme Court decision to legalize gay marriage across the nation, BCC, the self-described world’s oldest LGBT synagogue, had added reason to celebrate. Many of the day’s speakers, including BCC Rabbi Lisa Edwards, highlighted the importance of the court decision. 

The synagogue also honored Sylvia Sukop and Bonnie Kaplan with the Harriet Perl Tzedek Award and Bruce Maxwell with the BCC Presidents Award.  

The event drew nearly 300 people, including  BCC Cantor Juval Porat, who performed; Elissa Barrett, a BCC congregant and vice president at Bet Tzedek and her partner, writer Joshua Gershick; and BCC President Lauren Schlau

The Jewish Free Loan Association (JFLA) celebrated its 111th anniversary and honored various community members during its June 10 gala at the Luxe Sunset Boulevard Hotel in Bel Air. 

Dr. Richard Shemin, a cardiac surgeon, received the Nathan Shapell Memorial Lifetime Commitment Award, and Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer was given the Ben and Anne Werber Communal Service Award. James and Sandra Kohn, who established the JFLA Kohn Family Fund for the Arts, a loan program, were honored with the Mitchell Family Foundation Philanthropy Award, and Betsy Berger, a former JFLA emergency loan recipient who now works for The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, received the Salter Family Foundation Client Recognition Award.

Comedian Monica Piper (“Not That Jewish”) served as emcee of the event, which drew JFLA CEO David Levy and 225 other attendees. 

Established in 1904, JFLA provides interest-free microloans to people of any faith facing financial challenges in the Los Angeles area.

Bet Tzedek’s 19th annual Justice Ball on June 20 drew 800 attendees and raised approximately $250,000 for the pro bono legal aid agency that assists low-income people with housing and other emergencies, Holocaust survivors applying for reparations and others in need. Founded as a storefront operation, the organization is currently headquartered in Koreatown.

Highlights of the Bet Tzedek Justice Ball included a live performance by rapper Taboo of the Black Eyed Peas. Photo by Ben Shani Photography

Every year, the Bet Tzedek New Leadership Council organizes this event for young professionals. This year, for the first time, the Justice Ball was held at the Conga Room at L.A. Live, a Cuban-themed nightclub with its own cigar-rolling station and salsa-dancing lessons studio offering panoramic views of Nokia Plaza and the Staples Center’s entrance.

The highlights of the evening included separate live performances by rappers Travie McCoy and Taboo of the Black Eyed Peas, their energetic tunes drawing hundreds of people — including folks otherwise blissfully cordoned off in the VIP area — to the Conga dance floor.

The Journal caught up with Bet Tzedek CEO/President Jessie Kornberg while she was in line at one of two cocktail bars. This was the first Justice Ball for Kornberg, who was hired last October. 

McCoy sported a white T-shirt, cargo shorts and a chain necklace. He played DJ for a while — leaving some in the crowd, including The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ Jocelyn Orloff, to wonder if he was ever going to get behind the microphone — before finally singing his hit song, “Billionaire.” (“I want to be a billionaire, so freaking bad,” the chorus goes.) Performing before young and upcoming lawyers, he dedicated the song to the “future billionaires” in the crowd.

Atid, a young-professionals organization at Sinai Temple, held its first gala on June 6. More than 150 gathered at the temple to mingle, dance, enjoy dinner and present Barak Raviv with the Outstanding Leadership Award. 

From left: Bryce Megdal, Simone Nathanson and Andrea Paige attend Atid’s first gala. Photo courtesy of Atid 

As senior vice president and senior portfolio manager at Morgan Stanley in Beverly Hills, Raviv has donated 10 percent of his income to various charitable organizations through the Barak Raviv Foundation for more than a decade. Last year, he donated a substantial amount to Atid and sponsored numerous events. 

“It’s one of the most powerful organizations for reaching young professionals in the Jewish community,” Raviv, 39, told the Journal. “It creates a community, and people see it as a second Jewish home.”

Established by Rabbi David Wolpe almost 20 years ago, Atid serves 21- to 39-year-olds, holding around 10 programs each month. These include Wolpe’s lectures, holiday events and singles programming.

“We try and provide entry points for as many different types of Jews in L.A. as possible,” said Matt Baram, Sinai Temple’s Millennial Director and the man behind the event. 

“[Raviv] is a mensch who supports Atid both financially and with his attitude,” Baram said. “We give the award to someone who positively impacts the greater community with his words and actions, and he is just that.” 

The gala raised $7,000 and was a launching point for a new fundraising campaign called Chai 1,000. The goal of the campaign is to have 1,000 people donate $18 or more to the organization.

 —  Sarah Soroudi, Contributing Writer

Moving and Shaking highlights events, honors and simchas. Got a tip? Email [email protected] 

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